SEVEN STANZAS AT EASTER
by John Updike

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.

Anthem lyrics

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government —
signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
a thundercloud
and they’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring …

You can add up the parts
but you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.

Next week is Ash Wednesday.  Once again I find myself pondering what, if anything, I should give up for Lent.

<sigh>

So what do I give up this year?  I don’t think I’m up for a lofty and poetic Lent.  This year I already feel like I’m lurking in a shadowy tenebrae.  I feel tied (chained?) to the mundane, the tellurian.

And so I ponder the question…
and question my motives…
and wonder if I should even bother.

But maybe, just maybe, if I wander through the shadows of Lent, I will catch a glimpse of light.

Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
–Leonard Cohen

If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi?  Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds?  Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary?  For each one of us, there is a desert to travel.  A star to discover.  And a being within ourselves to bring to life.
–Author Unknown 

Remember this, my little Christmas poem?

Well, I won!  Woo-hoo!  I’m $100 richer (or, at least, I will be after I get the check).  I’m excited.  😉  I was up against several family members who had  been published, so I knew the competition was stiff.  I can’t believe I actually won!  What a nice Christmas surprise.

*UPDATE: Grandpa made it through the surgery just great!  The doctor said that his heart was really a mess so it will take quite awhile for him to recover, but he also said that he will feel much, much better soon.  I am so thankful!*

Today my grandpa has open heart surgery to repair (or replace?) an incredibly leaky mitral valve and to unplug an artery that is 90% blocked.  I know I should probably be incredibly anxious about this day, but the truth is, it’s taken so long to get here, and I’m so relieved that it’s finally going to happen, that I feel more relief than anxiety.  I suppose I should be thankful for the peace rather than trying to analyze it so much that I become anxious, huh.

The events leading up to today’s surgery day are a little convoluted.  When my grandpa was at the VA hospital several weeks ago, he came home and still felt horrible.  He would lose his breath when talking, had absolutely no energy, and felt a lot of uncomfortable, crushing chest pressure.  He also felt a lot of burning when going to the bathroom (I’m sure he would love me sharing this), but he was told that this can happen after being catheterized (which he was while he was in ICU).  It just got worse and worse, though, so the day after Thanksgiving he went back to the VA ER, and the doctor there, after doing a blood test, was livid that he had been released.  She said that with his symptoms they should have run a test to check for infection, which they did not.  Therefore, not only did he have a UTI, but the infection had also spread into his blood.  He was sent home with an antibiotic.  These details are significant because yesterday when the cardiologist at KU checked his records from the VA, they indicated that he had been sent home with the antibiotic, which is absolutely not true.  Someone is trying to keep him or herself from getting into trouble.  Grrrrr…..  The cardiologist also couldn’t figure out why he had not been sent in for an artery repair…years ago.  My grandpa’s leaky valve has been paraded in front of so many residents both at the VA and KU, who are told that they will probably never hear such a leak again in their lives, that it’s apparently a wonder any of his blood is getting where it’s supposed to go.  Which is precisely the problem, I suppose.  Much of the blood is not getting where it’s supposed to go.

Anyway, when Grandpa left the VA he was told that within two weeks he would get a letter in the mail with a date for a heart catherization as well as a surgery date to replace his valve.  He got no such letter, and he practically began to waste away with pain and despair (he weighs less than I do now).  Finally, on Monday morning, he was so uncomfortable that he went back to the VA, where they admitted him again.  That night, they transferred him over to KU.

Thank God.  Literally.  I think the VA hospital was trying to kill him.

The cardiologist just cannot figure out why he was released from the hospital in the first place.  He should have been transferred directly from the VA to KU, especially since he had been having such chest pressure. He really needed to have the heart catherization to see if the chest pressure was caused by blockage.  Yesterday’s heart catherization revealed that he did, indeed, have a 90% blockage in an artery.  Wouldn’t you think that they would have immediately wanted to check on if his arteries were blocked rather than assuming…whatever it was they were assuming?  It just makes me so angry!  Can you sue the VA?  Probably not…..  Really, though, the VA hospitals should be the best of the best, and they just seem, instead, to be haphhazard, outdated holding places to corral our veterans until they die.  That is just…wrong.  Unjust.  Absolutely ludicrous.  I’m very happy that he is now at KU.  They have one of the best heart hospitals in the nation.  I feel like his heart is in good hands.

And today I have to give up his heart both to the hands of his doctors and to the One who holds his heart in the palm of His hand.  The past two mornings I have woken up with these lyrics singing in my head:

But a certain sign of grace is this
From the broken earth
Flowers come up
Pushing through the dirt.

Today we need some grace…and as many prayers, positive thoughts, and well wishes as you can muster.